At the corner of Isabel la Católica and Venustiano Carranza in the Historic Center, the Palace of the Counts of San Mateo de Valparaíso is one of those treasures many long-time Mexico City residents simply pass by. In a lush Baroque style, the building is covered in tezontle, and is largely in the same state as during the 18th-century, when it so painstakingly emerged. It hasn’t been open to the public since 2010, but remains a part of the Citibanamex group, as it has been since 1882.
Granted by Hernán Cortés to one Alonso Nortes in the 1500s, the land was later sold to a Juan Cermeño. Cermeño erected what is historically described as a “fortress-like” house there using pre-conquest materials. The property then passed to the Countess of San Mateo de Valparaíso. With her husband, the Marquis del Jaral, Don Miguel de Berrio y Zaldívar Guerrero y Torres, the decision was made to construct a real palace. An architect named Francisco Antonio de Guerrero y Torres was contracted. He began building on December 5, 1769 and concluded on May 9, 1772.
Completely remodeled according to the tastes and demands of the Count, the building is considered an example of a more Mexican-style Baroque. Building materials that included gray chiluca stone were used for the structural elements. Classic Mexico City tezontle covers the facade and tile came from the famous Talavera shop in Puebla. The corner tower contains an angular niche to protect an image of the Guadalupana flanked by Salomónico columns.
The Palace of the Counts of San Mateo de Valparaíso was occupied as a residence for more than 100 years. The builders’ descendants remained until 1867 when the estate was awarded to one Don Clemente Sanz. His daughter, Dolores Sanz de Lavié, sold it for 135,000 pesos in 1882, to the newly founded Mexican National Bank. The bank, however, merged with the Mexican Mercantile Bank in 1884, and the resulting National Bank of Mexico has been the owner ever since. Having been declared an Artistic Monument on February 25, 1932, the building was in fact open to the public until 2010. Today it is closed, but some particularly attractive interior photos are available on the Google Maps entry, where a careful reader will also glimpse some signs of Citibanamex, still using the building today.
Isabel la Católica 44, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX